I need more than 140-characters to tell you about my love-hate relationship with Twitter.
My account is a few years old. Mostly I use the popular social networking site to share links to news items I find interesting, or memes and cartoons I think are funny. Every now and then I browse reactions to major events from across the U.S. and around the world. One time I even got into a back-and-forth with some jihadists about whether Israel is a villainous aggressor or not, but that’s a story for another day.
When it comes time to communicate my own ideas, I experience mixed emotions about tweeting. Twitter seems woefully inadequate to me; its 140-characters or less limitation suffocates my mind. My thoughts on just about any given topic don’t fit neatly into that small space Twitter confines me to. My thoughts are more likely to come in 1,400 words or more.
When reading the words of Elihu in Job 32:17-22, I feel as though I’m meeting a kindred spirit.
I also will answer with my share;
I also will declare my opinion.
For I am full of words;
the spirit within me constrains me.
Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent;
like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak, that I may find relief;
I must open my lips and answer.
I will not show partiality to any man
or use flattery toward any person.
For I do not know how to flatter,
else my Maker would soon take me away.
Truly, I empathize with and admire Elihu for what he says here and in the rest of Job, so much so that my wife and I named our second son after him!
And yet most people on the internet are not like Elihu and me, in my experience. Most people seem quite contented with 140-characters or less on Twitter, or maybe just a little more than that on Facebook. And that’s fine!
For example, my wife loves putting things succinctly, and I love her. Sometimes I love her despite her preference for compact statements, like when she gives a very simple answer in her soft-spoken directness to what I feel is a very complicated question. But I have learned in our almost 9 years of marriage to appreciate more often than not the way my wife balances me out. Her communication habits remind me of other passages from the Scriptures like,
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
How valuable others will find what you have to say depends on the quality of your statements – whether what you tell them is clear, good, true, and timely. But there’s also a certain supply and demand aspect to communication, and my wife is a master of it, whether she realizes that or not. She doesn’t flood the market, as it were, with a lot of extra nonsense filler, and people as a result seem to value her comments, and take them in with greater enjoyment. I know I certainly do.
In economics, when demand is higher relative to supply, maintaining a steady supply preserves value and ensures a certain stability of demand, guards against demand dropping off, and may even facilitate an increase in demand as something inherently desirable is regarded as also special and exclusive. Flooding the market, even with an important and essential commodity, is a sure way to cheapen what you’re selling.
But people are different. As much as I cherish my wife for being who she is, the simple truth is that she and I are different people and, as such, have been blessed by God with different personalities, tendencies, talents, and gifts.
It’s typical for me to write something – an email, an essay, etc. – and have my wife read over it to tell me what she thinks. Routinely she helps me take what I said in a paragraph or two and condense it down to a short sentence or two. She would excel at Twitter except that it’s probably too public for her taste.
On the flip-side, I was pretty good in high school and college at helping Lauren with her writing assignments. Where she was naturally inclined to write a sentence or two but needed to turn in an essay at or above her professor’s requirement of 1,000 or 1,500 words or so many pages, I had a knack for helping her expand on a statement and turn her couple of sentences into three or four paragraphs.
Among many other things, that is part of the beauty of God having put my wife and me together – we balance one another out. As Cervantes wrote in Don Quixote,
“There must be all sorts in the world.”
Perhaps Twitter can serve as a blessing in disguise for folks like me, at least insomuch as it helps us to learn how to restrain our words. I could go on, but unfortunately anymore of a full summary of my ongoing struggle with Twitter specifically and brevity in general would be a case-in-point of said struggle, and would tip you off to how I’m fairing. So I will spare both you and myself from that, and will leave you with one last passage of Scripture on the topic as I attempt to adhere to it.
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.